In his meditations on the Oblate Rule of Life, Eugene reflected on how the Missionaries had responded to a ravaged Church, fifteen years earlier. Through their ministry they hoped to heal and make up for the vacuum left by the destruction of the religious orders.

The more I go on, the more I am confounded, astonished, ravished by our lofty destiny. My God, give us the grace to understand the meaning of this third article the end of the Society, that one has all too often read without thinking: The end of this Society is also to make up for, insofar as possible, the many institutions that have disappeared since the revolution in France (art. 3).
Run through all the religious Orders that the Revolution destroyed in France. Remember the various ministries they exercised, virtues they practiced, some in the secrecy of God’s house, in contemplation and prayer, others in service of neighbor through every work of the most sustained zeal, and draw your own conclusions from this article 3 and its unfolding of such an important second end of our institute.

Retreat notes, October 1831, EO XV n. 163

Two centuries later, the Church experiences many wounds and vacuums. What is my response to Saint Eugene’s invitation?

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    The opening words of the Preface dance before me: ‘That Church, the glorious inheritance which Christ the Saviour purchased at the cost of his own blood, has in our days experienced cruel desolation.’ As I return to Eugene’s words above – it was systemic then, bloody, deadly with a violence that fed on itself. Yet it did not destroy God, nor the Church. My moves on as I think for a moment of John the Baptist – ‘a voice crying out in the wilderness’ on this first Monday in Lent.

    My beloved Church today with many wounds (small and gaping) and vacuums. when I look I see how we are bombarded with untruths. Rationalization and reason have become some of our greatest enemies if they are not tempered with grace and love. Social media and television, movies and popular books – filled with a violence cloaked as power that will make us ‘bigger and better.’ I look and see a great preponderance to throw away all that is old (older than the present moment), all that is not instantaneous. There is a growing reliance on oneself – I will make this better, I will reason this out and understand. The answers are purported to be found elsewhere – by looking outward rather than going deeper within our own selves. A little while back I listened to a friend I know reflect on some scripture readings. The word “God” was mentioned once at the beginning and the rest of it was all about how to ‘understand’, to think our way through everything and all will be right and wounds will be healed. It saddened me to listen – no mystery, no real depth of hope or healing, no space for God to be God.

    I think of how I spent half of my life running from pain and violence, trying to cope with the use of more violence and with substances. I think of some in the French Revolution whose violence and despair simply fed even greater violence and despair. I remember Eugene’s words: ‘I looked for happiness outside of God…”

    I think of the word ‘Founder/Foundress’ within the context of the Church. Eugene de Mazenod, St. Eugene de Mazenod – yes my Founder and how he invited me to walk with him, to be a ‘disciple’ and even as I write these words they solidify and take up permanent residence within me. I think of how Jesus invited others to follow him – he did not say ‘go find your own way’ but rather ‘come follow me’. I don’t need to do this myself – my way, I don’t want to do this myself – my way.

    Being a part of an immense mystery, a part of the Church that I love so deeply that her wounds cause me to feel sad and pained; a part of this magnificent family that Eugene de Mazenod invited me to enter into, the word ‘choose’ comes to mind. My life to share the good news and even deeper. Not always a comfortable thought, not always easy – to stand at the foot of our crucifix as he invites us over and over again.

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